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The home teams have held serve through the first four games of the conference finals in the NBA playoffs, as the scene in the East shifts to Boston. The Heat survived a scare in Game 2 against the feisty Celtics, rallying from a 15-point deficit to knock off Boston in overtime, 115-111. Miami failed to cash as 7 ˝-point favorites, but the Heat has their foot on the Celtics' throats heading to Beantown for Friday's Game 3.
After cruising past the C's in the series opener, Erik Spoelstra's team came out slow in the first half of Game 2. Rajon Rondo put together the game of his life as the Boston point guard scored 22 points in the first half to give the Celtics a 53-46 advantage. The Heat fell behind, 47-32 with four minutes remaining in the half, but a 14-6 run cut the deficit to seven points at the intermission. However, Boston cashed easily as 4 ˝-point underdogs in the first half, while the 'over' of 89 hit with 90 seconds left before halftime.
Rondo's unexpected production in the first 24 minutes was as surprising as Dwyane Wade's disappearing act in the opening half. Wade scored just two points early on, but helped spark the huge third quarter rally by Miami, a 35-22 output to take a six-point lead heading into the final period. Both Wade and MVP LeBron James combined to score 23 points in that important 12 minutes, but Kevin Garnett's jumper to beat the buzzer killed some of Miami's momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
Boston pulled off a 15-4 run to start the final period, but the Celtics couldn't hold onto a late five-point lead as the game headed to overtime. The game sailed 'over' the total of 178 ˝ in regulation (99-99), while Miami had an opportunity to cover late in overtime after grabbing a six-point lead, 114-108. Rondo drilled a pair of three-pointers in the final seconds to assure a Boston cover, but the Celtics dropped to 2-7 the last nine visits to the American Airlines Arena.
From a player props perspective (courtesy of Sportsbook.ag) in Game 2, Rondo easily surpassed the 26 points + assists in the first half alone, while putting 54 combined points and assists. Despite fouling out in overtime, Paul Pierce squeezed past his personal total of 19 by scoring 21 points, but Garnett fell short of his 18 ˝ number with 18 points. James cashed on his 44 ˝ total of points, rebounds, and assists with a grand total of 51, while Wade finished shy of his 25 point player prop by two points.
Looking ahead to Game 3 in the player props category, Sportsbook.ag listed James at 30 ˝ points (shaded to the 'over' at -120), while Rondo's combined points and rebounds are set at 23 ˝ (shaded to the 'over' at -140). James has topped the 31-point mark in six of 13 postseason games, including twice in five road contests. The Celtics' guard eclipsed the 23 ˝ points + rebounds plateau in five of 13 playoff contests, while grabbing seven or more boards in seven postseason games.
VegasInsider.com's Chris David returns with a look from the totals aspect heading into Friday, "Even though the Celtics and Heat combined for 226 points in Game 2, the opening number on Game 3 is still in the same neighborhood and I'm not surprised. The pace for the first two installments was about the same, but the difference between going 'over' or 'under' was the hot shooting percentages and the eye opening amount of free throws attempted (76). The total opened 179 and quickly jumped to 180 ˝ points. With the Celtics sitting as short favorites (-2), the oddsmakers are expecting the winner to get close to 90 points. Normally, most would believe that Miami has a better shot to accomplish the feat but doing so at Boston won't be easy."
With things shifting to New England, David believes that Boston's defense will tighten up, "In the playoffs at TD Garden, the Celtics have surrendered 82.3 PPG albeit against the Hawks and 76ers. And after losing a shootout in overtime, you would have to think Doc Rivers will have Rondo slow down the tempo and work the half-court sets at home. Also, if you're looking for recent playoff trends, Miami has seen the 'under' go 3-2 on the road and it scored 87 and 75 points in Game 3 at New York and Indiana and respectively."
The Heat owns a 9-4 SU and 7-6 ATS record on the road this season off a home victory, while going just 1-1 SU/ATS in the underdog role. On the flip side, the Celtics dominated at TD Garden off an away defeat, posting a 9-1 SU and 7-3 ATS mark, including a 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS ledger in the postseason.
Despite being down 2-0, the Celtics are listed as two-point favorites in Game 3, while the total is set at 180. The game tips off at 8:30 PM EST and can be seen nationally on ESPN.
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